Explanations of a few technical terms in a variety of languages:

Aguardente (Portuguese) A 77% alcohol spirit distilled from the grape solids left after pressing.  The aguardente used to fortify Port is colourless and flavourless, and the IVDP must approve the spirit to be used each year.  Note that the word is also can refer to some Portuguese brandy or marc-like liquors which are meant for drinking.

Balseiro (s) (Portuguese) Immense wooden cask(s) built to stand upright, typically sized to hold thousands or even tens of thousands of litres.  Used for ageing wines when we wish to minimise the effects of wood and micro-oxygenation.

Baumé (French) This is a measure of the dissolved sugars in grape must, and is a good indicator of the ultimate alcohol and sugar levels of a wine (in the case of port – before fortification).  The baumé of the grapes is one of several indicators monitored closely to determine the ideal time to begin the harvest.

Beneficio (Portuguese)   The IVDP (see below) regulates the quantity of port to be made in order to stabilise the market and pricing.  Every August they announce the beneficio – effectively a certificate or license issued to each grower authorising them to produce a certain amount of port.  The amount of the beneficio is determined based on many factors, such as the quality of the individual producer’s vineyards, the climactic conditions of the year, the market and stocks.

Caldeira (s) (Portuguese)  A depression (s) created around the base of a newly planted vine, which will help channel any water towards the roots of the plant.

Caseiro (Portuguese)  The property manager or bailiff; Sr Arlindo is the caseiro at Quinta dos Malvedos.

Casta (s) (Portuguese) Variety (ies) of grapes

Colheita (s) (Portuguese) Harvest(s) or crop(s), also the gathering or picking of the crop.  Often you will see barrels in our Lodge marked, for example, “Colheita 1935”  in which case it means simply the harvest of 1935.  The word has been adopted by some port producers to designate an old single-harvest tawny port aged in pipas.

Enólogo (s) (Portuguese)  Winemaker(s)

Fortification (English) The addition of aguardente, 77% alcohol pure grape spirit, to the fermenting wine in order to arrest the alcoholic fermentation.  Timed properly, this preserves a high level of sugar in the finished wine, whilst augmenting the alcohol level.  Finished ports are typically between 18 to 20% alcohol.

IVDP or  Instituto do Vinho do Porto e Douro (Portuguese) The Institute regulates the entire production process to control the quality and quantity of Port and Douro DOC wines, and acts to protect the DOC status of our wines both in Portugal and abroad. Site available in Portuguese, Spanish and English.  If you visit Porto, it is well worth visiting the IVDP – there is a very informative tour followed by a tasting of Port wines.

Lagar (es) (Portuguese) The traditional open, shallow square tank (s), like stone wading pools, used for treading grapes.  The Symington family designed and pioneered the stainless steel robotic lagar, which treads the grapes with pistons soled with silicon “feet” to replicate the effect of human treading.

Lodge (English) or Cave (Portuguese)  Porto is famed for the Port Lodges – which are in fact located across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia.  Whilst the grapes are pressed and vinified up in the Douro, and remain there over the winter, in spring the young port is brought down to Gaia, to age in wooden casks until ready to bottle.  Douro summers are intensely hot and dry – poor conditions for ageing wine.  Gaia, being on the shore of the Douro where it runs into the Atlantic, enjoys cooler and slightly more humid summers, and inside the immense stone lodges the wines enjoy perfect conditions for mellowing and ageing, sometimes for decades.

Lote (s) (Portuguese) The batch(es) of wine as made at the time of harvest, which may be either single or mixed-varietal wines.  Over the course of months or years after harvest, these lotes may be blended to create different styles of Port.

Mortório(s) (Portuguese) Walled terraced vineyards that were abandoned after phylloxera ravaged the Douro in the late 19th century.  Some now support olive groves, others are just crumbling slowly after almost a century and a half.

Patamar (es) (Portuguese)  Vineyard terrace (s).  The word is used for two types of terrace.  Traditional patamares are the pre-phylloxera terraces which were built with stone retaining walls.  Both Quinta dos Malvedos and Quinta do Tua have some particularly fine examples – see the Quinta photo galleries.  Since the 1960s, the word is also used for the terraces sculpted by bulldozer to have a sloped “wall” or embankment supporting each horizontal terrace in lieu of the traditional vertical stone retaining walls.   Both types of patamares have narrow level terraces planted with just 1 to 3 rows of vines (see also socalco below).

Pipa (s) (Portuguese) or Pipe (s) (English) The wooden casks for ageing tawny ports, which were also used to ship ports in bulk up to the 1970s.  The pipe is also a traditional unit of measure in the port trade, usually 550 litres though there are some variations on this.

Phenolic (English)  Phenolic ripeness refers to the ripeness of the pips and skin of the grape.  Phenols or Phenolics is a general term for a large group of chemical compounds which affect the flavour, colour and tannins of the finished wine.

Phylloxera (English) A minute insect which infests and sucks the sap from grapevine roots and leaves, eventually killing the plant.  Imported to Europe in the mid 19th century on American vines, which are themselves resistant to the pest, phylloxera spread throughout Europe and devestated the wine trade, wiping out nearly all the vineyards in France, Portugal, Italy and elsewhere.  After many futile attempts to control the pest, a solution was found:  grafting the European grape varieties onto the American rootstock, which practice continues to this day.

Porto (Portuguese) and Oporto (English) and Port (English)  First, the city name:  in Portugal, the city is known as “o Porto” – “o” being “the” in Portuguese, and the definite article is used so the listener knows we’re speaking about this very special city, as opposed to just any “porto” in the sense of a harbour for ships.  The English misconstrued this, and have always referred to the city as “Oporto“.  The wine, named for the city, is called Porto, or Vinho do Porto, in Portuguese, and Port in English.  Porto, the city, has been a very important port and trading place since Roman times, and in the 17th century became a centre of British commercial activity, including the shipping of wines.  Port, the wine, has traditionally been sourced from the Douro and fortified with aguardente to make a sweet and powerful wine.  (And we know we are making short work of a lot of history in this definition!).

Quinta (s) (Portuguese) This word is generally used to mean a farm or parcel of land.  In the Douro, it conjures up images of the famous 18th and 19th century properties with wonderful old manor houses, such as Quinta dos Malvedos.  In the Douro there are over 39,000 wine producers working close to 46,000 hectares of vineyards, so a “quinta” can be anything from a half hectare smallholding to an immense estate such as Graham’s Quinta do Vale de Malhadas with 145 hectares.

Roga (s) (Portuguese) Gang (s) or team (s) of workers, either picking the grapes in the vineyards or treading them in the lagares.

Schist (English) or Xisto (Portuguese)  The slate rock which prevails in the Douro – in the soil, in the stone walls, in buildings and even traditionally used for posts to support the vines.  The posts were made from a particular type of schist found only in the Douro Superior, which is a striking deep navy blue colour.

Socalco (s) (Portuguese)  A type of terrace typical of vineyards created after the phylloxera devestation.  These terraces were built with stone retaining walls, but the terraces themselves are sloped, not level, and planted with 10 to 20 rows of vines.

Symington Family Estates (SFE) SFE is now run by the fourth generation of the  Symington family to be involved in the Port trade, and through their great-grandmother, Beatrice Atkinson, the family can trace a heritage of 14 generations in the trade, back to 1652.  The Symingtons have owned – and worked themselves – properties in the Douro since the 19th century.  Today, the family are still picking grapes and making wines from vineyards planted by their grandfathers and great-grandfathers.  SFE makes Graham’s, as well as other brands of Port, most notably Warre’s, Dow’s, Cockburn’s and Quinta do Vesuvio.  To learn more about the family and their portfolio of wines, visit the SFE website at

Talude (s) (Portuguese) The sloped soil “wall(s)” of patamares (see above).

Tonel (toneis) (Portuguese) Large wooden cask(s) which lie on their sides, usually over 1000 litres capacity.  Graham’s has some beautiful old toneis in the Sala do Baptismo at our Lodge in Vila Nova de Gaia.

Uva (s) (Portuguese) Grape (s)

Vila Nova de Gaia or Gaia for short (Portuguese)  Porto is oftened referred to as Portugal’s second city, but it’s Gaia that really suffers from second city status in the shadow of Porto.  Whilst the British trading community has historically been based in Porto, the immense stone lodges where the Port wines are aged are all in Gaia.

Vindima (Portuguese)  Harvest

Vinha (s) (Portuguese)  Vineyard (s)

Vinha ao alto (Portuguese)  Vineyards planted vertically on a smooth slope of up to 45°.  Graham’s Quinta da Vila Velha has some vinha ao alto which are easily visible from the train line between Pinhão and Tua.

Vinhaço (Portuguese) The grape solids left after pressing the wine, which will go to a distiller for making into aguardente.

One thought on “Glossary”

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Crafting one of life's great traditions